Archive for July, 2010

The Fourth Fitness Truth

July 30th, 2010

(Sad) Fitness Truth #4: 30 Minutes a Day Doing the Same Old Thing Isn’t Going to Do It For You

(Happy) Fitness Truth #4: Mixing Up Your Routine Keeps You Interested, Involved, and Improving

Ah.  Yes.  The regular workout.  The “I can talk on my cell phone while I’m on the treadmill, and catch the latest gossip  in the magazine or sports on TV, and be done in time for dinner” kind of workout.

Yeah.  That one.

Well, it does have its benefits in there.  The thing is, the benefits dwindle each time you repeat the same mid-level workout because your body is so good at adapting to its most efficient state.  You need to keep your body guessing if you want to continue to see results.

So, if you’ve been working out for more than a few months, you need to start changing things up if you want to bust off a plateau and kick some serious butt. 

For runners, that might mean increasing your speed, adding intervals, adding a mile or adding hills.  Whew.  That should do it!  For walkers, get moving farther within the same period of time, or add intervals, and add hills.  You should as always go for an intense workout if you want to see results.  Intense means precisely that: you should finish sweaty and tired and say “phew; that was hard, but it was awesome!”

If you aren’t up for kicking up the workout, change it up instead.  Try out a new cardio machine at the gym, or bring a friend on a hike, or dust off those roller skates or dig out that soccer ball.  Sign up for a fitness class at the rec center in your city.  Do something you haven’t done before! 

Your body is an amazing machine and it strives for efficiency all the time.  When you repeat a workout and repeat the same level each time, you are performing the workout more efficiently and therefore not working as hard as your fitness improves.  It’s a bummer in some ways, but pretty cool in other ways.  It’s how we all get stronger or faster – those professional athletes who can run a 4 minute mile on the track and don’t even look like they are working hard?  They put in the time and training to teach their bodies how to move efficiently at that speed.  Amazing, isn’t it?

So rather than feel sad that your workouts will bring you diminishing returns, look on the fun side of things—that means that for the same energy output, you will soon be able to get more!  Rather than always doing a pushup with bent legs, change things up for yourself and start adding in some straight-leg pushups.  Grab ten or twelve pound weights instead of five or eight pounds.    There are an infinite number of ways to challenge yourself in a workout.  So get going if you want to continue to see results.

Make your workouts work for you!

Blood, Sweat, and Tears? Well, Sweat Anyway…

July 29th, 2010

 (Sad) Fitness Truth #3: Reaching Any Goal Takes Good Old-Fashioned Work

(Happy) Fitness Truth #3: Fitness Goals Are Obtainable

It is no fluke that not everyone exercises: exercising is hard work! 

But like I said on Tuesday, the benefits are so outrageous the work pales by comparison.  It’s an odd thing that once you work hard to reach a goal— really hard—the goal becomes less important because the value truly lies in the work you’ve put in.

Now, not every goal you have is achievable with only a certain amount of work.  Say, for example, you want to be a millionaire or a movie star.  Okay, yes, hard work is an absolute requirement.  But for some goals, one needs to be lucky as well as work hard.  Luck isn’t so easy to come by.

Not so with fitness.  With fitness, you put in the work, be smart in how you train, and nearly every goal you have is obtainable.

How cool is that?!!

Take, for example, my goal of running a marathon.  I made that a goal of mine in 2002 or maybe 2003.  I worked hard but I wasn’t smart about how I trained.  I developed a stress fracture and had to take months off of running.  (That sucked!)  I wasn’t sure how it would feel to run or jump again but I worked back to it. 

It took weeks of running in a pool and biking, more weeks of running a few feet at a time on a rubberized track, months of running on trails to strengthen my legs.  I changed how often I run, and developed other ways to strengthen my legs. 

It was a long and laborious process.  I think I trained my patience more than anything, even though I didn’t want to. 

But I never reached that fitness goal of running a marathon.  Years and years went by (years that included law school and passing the bar exam) and I felt ready again to set that old goal in front of me.  So the entire year of 2009 I kept the marathon in my sights, and really devoted some time to making myself stronger and training to get through more than four hours of continual running. 

And I did it. 

It’s a funny thing about reaching a fitness goal like that, which you spent so long to achieve.  It makes you think you can do anything.

Because you can.

Calories, Joy, and a Box of Crackers (not in that order)

July 28th, 2010

 (Sad) Fitness Truth #2: Calories Burned While Exercising May Not Be As Many As It Appears

(Happy) Fitness Truth #2: You Continue to Burn Calories With an Elevated Metabolism Even After You Stop Exercising

I guess there isn’t anything worthwhile in hiding it, or even attempting to hide it.  I am an eater.  Yes, there are foods I dislike, but if it’s salty and if it’s crunchy and bite-sized, I’ll nearly always say “yum”.  I can put away a box of crackers at lightning speed. 

It’s not something I can say I’m proud of, but I do an okay job at making it through the day and fitting through the door.

So when I hear people talk about looking down at the treadmill readout, or at their heart rate monitor, and shout they just burned 600 calories, I know where that is coming from.  It’s coming from that place of “yum” that I myself enjoy so much.

And this is why it breaks my heart to tell you this: you really probably aren’t burning as many calories as you think.  I’ll steal from Cathe Friedrich yet again to explain: 

To begin with, cardio machines only give an average value for calories burned. The more accurate cardio machines will ask you to input your weight, sex and even height, but regardless the calories burned value displayed is only an estimate and not an exact value.

Still, the biggest mistake people make in calculating the extra calories burned from exercising is forgetting to subtract the calories they would have burned anyway if they had done absolutely nothing. The average person burns about 12 calories per pound of body weight each day just sitting around. The actual number of calories burned at rest (BMR) also depends on your metabolism. Metabolism rates are influenced by many factors such as height, weight, and age, but can also vary because of genetics and other factors. This is why some people can eat whatever they want and not gain weight, while others must keep to a strict diet to avoid gaining weight.

On average a 150 lb person will burn about 1800 calories each day without any exercise which translates into about 75 calories per hour. Therefore, if this 150 pound person did a one hour workout on the elliptical and the computer display said 500 calories were burned, technically it means only an extra 425 calories were burned from exercising on the elliptical during this hour and not 500 calories as the display indicated (500 – 75 = 425).

Depressing, isn’t it. 

Which is why I love this next little factoid so much: you will continue to burn some calories after you finish exercising.  Now, this depends entirely on how strenuously you exercise, what type of exercise you’ve engaged in, and every other factor that goes into your rate of metabolism to begin with.

You have probably heard about or felt the effects yourself if you live with diabetes and even if you don’t.  When I workout for more than an hour and a half, I need to check about 4 hours after I’m done because I usually head low about that time.  If I do strenuous interval workouts, it takes about 1-3 hours and if I do a long run, more like 6 hours.  Last night I ran 12 miles after work, and made sure to set an alarm for 2am.  I was 76 when I checked at 2am so I had some juice to help me sleep the rest of the night without crashing.

It’s kind of nice to know the effects of my exercise last so long.  It’s like a bonus

Maybe I’ll go open a box of crackers to celebrate.

All In Good Time

July 27th, 2010

The first fitness myth I think is out there that we all need to deal with is that getting fit really involves a lifestyle change.  Fitness is not an end goal, nor a static destination.  It is a way of life and as such requires constant change. 

There are, as with almost anything, two sides to the story when it comes to getting fit. 

(Sad) Fitness Truth #1: Getting Fit- Truly Fit- Can Take A While

(Happy) Fitness Truth #1: Getting Fit Shows Continual Objective and Subjective Improvements

I’m not one for weight loss surgery and can’t say I’m a fan of The Biggest Loser.  I don’t think either one of them stands the test of time (and I think weight loss surgery has dramatic long term negative effects on one’s health that they rarely mention when someone comes onstage to reveal their “new” body).

If you have 50 pounds to lose, it’s going to take a while.  If you want to run a marathon, it’s going to involve some training.  If you want to graduate from college, you’ve got to put the time in.  If you want a baby, you’ve got to put the time in.

Nearly every worthy goal involves months and sometimes years of preparation.  If it didn’t, would it be as worthy a goal?  Probably not.

It took me a year and a half to lose the 45 pounds I had put on over many years of inactivity.  I knew it would take a while, and I knew that if I didn’t start that day, it would only take longer to get my body where I knew it needed to be.

It took me many months of bent leg pushups before I was strong enough to do a straight leg pushup. 

It took me several months of walk/jogging before I could run a 5k, more months before I could run a 10k, and a few years’ of running before I could run a half marathon.  My first marathon took a year’s worth of preparation.

But these fitness journeys were not without progress.  I could see that my body was changing and I could feel myself getting stronger.  With weight loss came new clothes to fit my smaller size.  My 15 minute mile slowly changed to a 12 minute mile, then plateaued at a 10 minute mile for a number of years.  Then when I decided I wanted to improve on that pace, I had to put in more work.  And I’ve seen the results.

I admit the results of these efforts have been rather addicting.  I want to keep quickening my pace because I have so much fun and get so much satisfaction and pride in seeing my improvements over the months and years.     

So I guess for you the question is: what are you willing to work for?

Fitness Product Infomercials: Who is Buying What They’re Selling

July 26th, 2010

I was thinking this weekend about all the fitness-related infomercials that I’ve seen over the years.  So many of them, while entertaining, set a poor example for most of us by portraying unrealistic results and setting unrealistic expectations

It’s kind of sad, I think, and yet completely understandable.  We are all looking for the best, fastest result possible with the least amount of effort.  Money rarely factors into the equation when someone is telling us that abdominal six-pack only requires three—now for a limited time, only two!—easy payments of $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

So, this week I want to talk about some things I’ve learned about fitness that have stood the test of time and I rarely see mentioned in fitness product infomercials.  (Have you ever read the fine print on the before/after photos?  Try it sometime and you’ll see what I mean.) 

Far from only selling you a one-sided rosy picture, I want you to recognize what I think fitness really involves.  I know you’re smart enough to recognize that with diabetes in your life, you need to take care of your body and I know you know that exercise is one of the best ways to do so.  Even if you don’t have diabetes, exercise helps you live your life to your fullest potential.  It’s good for me to know that I’m not hiding the ball from you, and it’s good for you to know these things without having to squint at the fine print. 

Let’s get started.  Here are both sides of what I consider to be the top four Fitness Truths, in random order:


(Sad) Fitness Truth #1: Getting Fit- Truly Fit- Can Take A While

(Happy) Fitness Truth #1: Getting Fit Shows Continual Objective and Subjective Improvements


(Sad) Fitness Truth #2: Calories Burned While Exercising May Not Be As Many As It Appears

(Happy) Fitness Truth #2: You Continue to Burn Calories With an Elevated Metabolism Even After You Stop Exercising


(Sad) Fitness Truth #3: Reaching Any Goal Takes Good Old-Fashioned Work

(Happy) Fitness Truth #3: Fitness Goals Are Obtainable


(Sad) Fitness Truth #4: 30 Minutes a Day Doing the Same Old Thing Isn’t Going to Do It For You

(Happy) Fitness Truth #4: Mixing Up Your Routine Keeps You Interested, Involved, and Improving


I’ll talk more about each of these this week.  Hopefully you’ll start to broaden your horizons or learn something or change your thinking or, at the very least, crack a smile once or twice as you read.

Bring it on.

But I Don’ Wanna!

July 23rd, 2010

Every now and then someone asks me if I ever have a day I don’t want to work out.  It makes me laugh a little when they ask me that.  I mean, who do they think I am?!  Of course I have days I just don’t want to work out!!

So what makes me different than the person asking the question?  I’m not so sure.  I definitely work out most days, and I definitely talk about my workouts more than some.  I also make other people work out five days a week, so I can see how a perception forms that I am some maniac exerciser.  But I really do think that’s all it is: a perception.  Like most perceptions, it is based in some truth and some fiction.

When I have a day that I just don’t want to work out, what do I do? 

  1. I look at the reasons behind my lack of desire.  Is it the fact my CGM woke me up alarming at a low or high blood sugar every 10 minutes all night long last night?  Is it that yesterday I didn’t eat very well, and don’t feel very energetic?  Do I want to lie around instead of work out because I can’t think of what workout I would enjoy? 
  2. I look at my previous few days’ of workouts.  Were they really intense, or more than I’m used to doing?  Did I run a long distance, or lift heavier weights than I’ve been doing in the last few weeks or months?  Have I been feeling low energy for several days, or just today?
  3. I look ahead for the next few days.  Do I have something coming up that I want to have extra energy for?  A vigorous hike planned with friends or a long run or even a fun run? 

 Most of the time, if I can find a reason, I find it easier to modify or skip a workout.  I’ll either do a shorter workout, or a more moderate workout, or do some yoga instead of anything high-impact.  I try to vary my workout intensity throughout the week, but when my body is telling me something I always try to listen.  If it’s saying “I’m tired and here’s why” I must listen to it.  If I don’t listen to my body, I’m toast.

If I can’t find a reason for my low energy, I promise myself I just need to do the warm up– if I still don’t want to work out, I can stop and forget the whole idea.  It’s not quite like your Mom saying you have to have at least one bite of some new food on your dinner plate, but it’s close.  I’ve definitely changed out the workout in my DVD player mid-warm up on more than one occasion, and there have been a couple days I didn’t even make it through to put in a new DVD before simply stopping.

It is important to me at this point to always listen to what my body is telling me.  I ask a lot of it, and usually it can perform fairly well.  When it doesn’t, I need to respect that and rest instead of push. 

As long as I have a good reason to skip a workout, I let myself rest easy and don’t beat myself up over a missed session. 

It’s good for me.

My Tuesday Workout

July 22nd, 2010

On Tuesdays, I like to run a medium-long run because I have the time that day to make it work.  For the past year and a half or so, I’ve tried to make Tuesdays my Treadmill Day and head to the community center down the street from my house for some interval and sprint work on the treadmill.

Because I’m gearing up to run the Silicon Valley Marathon in October with Run the Coast, I have been gradually increasing the length of my runs.  On Tuesday, that meant I wanted to get in eight or nine miles.


If I tried to run the type of intervals I enjoy for that long, I would be exhausted and unable to continue at the speed I want.  If I skipped the intervals and just ran on the ‘mill, I would be so bored I’d slow down.

So on Tuesday, I decided I would run 5 miles outside first, then go to the community center and spend the next four miles doing intervals. 

Whatta plan!

Except for that 65 meter reading at mile 3.5 of my outside run.  Hmm.

With that reading, I had some decisions to make.  I could have just stopped my workout and walked home (I basically did a strange loop that kept me somehow within about a mile and a half of my house at all times), or I could keep going and skip the treadmill workout, or I could cut the outside run short and figure out how to do the treadmill workout, or I could do what I did: I walked the remainder of the outside run and also ran on the treadmill. 

Of course, there were some other things in there, too. 

I ate two “servings” of carbohydrate for the low at 65.  If I were going to walk home, I would probably have only had one.  But of course I was at the base of a big hill when I checked, and I wanted to keep going on my planned route.  I know that if I keep walking at a moderate effort when I’m in the middle of a run and low like this, I will continue to go low.  So I had two servings.  (I think I had about six with me, left over from my recent 13 mile run on the weekend.)

And then I checked again after the crest of the hill.  Oh yeah.  48.

So you and I know by now that a 48 isn’t going to get me running sprint intervals on a treadmill.   Which is perfectly fine, except that I just haven’t gotten to enjoy a Treadmill Tuesday in a few weeks and I plain and simple wanted to do it.  Harrumph

And this is when genius struck.  (I love when genius strikes me at 48.)  I recognized that I have been carrying this $5 bill with me on every long run I have done for the past two years.  I decided today was the day to spend it.  So I walked to the grocery store that was in between where I was and the treadmill.  And I bought a Gatorade. 

Now, I had Gatorade in my fridge at home, but home was 4 blocks past the treadmill.  I knew I wasn’t ever going to get over to that treadmill if I set foot inside my house, though, and since I had that $5 bill, I essentially gave myself permission to call my situation an emergency.

Right; a running emergency.  I had to buy that drink in order to keep running the way I wanted to run. 

By the time I got to the community center, I was 94.  Woot!  I hopped on, ran my sprints for another 35 minutes, and walked home.  When I got off the ‘mill, I was 136. 

I also bolused as soon as I got home.  I had been on a drastically reduced basal rate for an hour and a half and knew that all of the carbs I had consumed to get me through the workout would need some help after I stopped since there was pretty much no insulin remaining in my body. 

I think the highest I got was 226.  Not bad, considering all the jockeying I had done with basals, boluses, fast carbs, slow carbs, liquid carbs, intervals, and steady-state running. 

And best of all, I declared a Running Emergency and spent that $5 bill, and it all worked out pretty well.  Yay!

Now I’ve got to go find another $5 bill…

Fitting Fitness In—No Room for Excuses

July 21st, 2010

So this is a pretty simple task, overall, to get you fit.  Really!  You may need to stop hiding behind excuses, but after you have a nice chat with yourself, you’ve already accomplished the hardest part.

(Alright; a valid excuse may be your blood sugar… but that is a one-time excuse and not a pattern.  If it is a pattern, you can address that by making insulin or medication changes or by eating a different amount of food or at a different time.  I hope you don’t like using your diabetes as an excuse for much, so why should exercise be any different??  As much as you feel like you don’t have control over your disease, you always have control over whether or not you exercise.)

Excuses may include:

Not now.  Too light at night.  Too hot outside.  Too dark in the morning.  Too cramped inside.  Whatever it is, it sounds like an excuse!  Quiet that excuse, put on your shoes and get going. 

Or maybe: No time.  Too stressed.  Too busy at work/school/home.  You know what?  That excuse is always there… life is busy.  Living life is stressful.  But aren’t you stressing yourself out whenever you say to yourself “I wish I had exercised today?”  Even if you can only do a little bit some days, still do it.  You won’t regret it.

Another one: it’s too expensive.  Well, you know, exercise is just like nearly everything else: it CAN be expensive.  But then again, it can be free, too!  Exercise can be a trip to a hoity-toity gym that costs several hundred dollars a month, or it can be a trip through your neighborhood and pushups on the floor by your bed.  Exercise can also be a Netflix workout video, or an iTunes yoga freebie.  It can be a trip up the high school bleachers a few times, or a 15 minute session treading water in the backyard pool.  It can be playing tug o war with your dog, or tag with the kids in the neighborhood. 

Open your mind to new activities and redefine “exercise” and make it work for you in your life.  It’s easier than you think, once you clear away those excuses!!

(Yup, I looked up how to spell “hoity-toity”.  I love Google.)

Fitting Fitness In—Despite Your Stress

July 20th, 2010

I think it’s important to figure out ways to keep yourself working out while you’re stressed and busy.  I know, I know.  It’s difficult.  And some days you won’t be able to squeeze it in.  However, make sure that those days are very few and far between.  Take care of yourself and your body; the rest of your life will thank you for it!

Saw this in the July 2010 issue of Oxygen magazine and I like what they say:

Q: When I’m stressed, I find it difficult to train.  How can I keep myself motivated?

A: Exercise reduces stress, increases energy and enhances mood, so the most important time to fit in a workout is when you’re stressed!  The very act of making yourself a priority counteracts stress and even helps prevent it.  Here’s how:

Pick a time of day to exercise that you are most able to commit to at least three times a week.

Choose a form of exercise you enjoy doing.  For instance, don’t force yourself to run if you genuinely don’t enjoy it.

Train with a friend or personal trainer—you’re less likely to bow out of an obligation to others.

Find a quiet place, take some deep slow breaths and visualize yourself exercising and feeling strong, fit and healthy.

Last, give yourself a reward for sticking to your commitment to reinforce the healthy choices you are making for yourself.

Are you seeing a trend here?  Exercise helps you combat the bad stuff in your life.  Feel good about that.  Make time to exercise, and feel better about what you’re doing for yourself.  Feeling strong, fit and healthy isn’t a quick fix and it is impossible to achieve overnight—but the benefits reach wide and last a lifetime if you let them and keep at it.

So go, carve out some time to exercise.

Enjoy the benefits.

Fitting Fitness In

July 19th, 2010

Cardiovascular fitness is a big thing for me: I like knowing I can run if I need to, and I like knowing I can keep running longer than most.  I find my long runs perfect opportunities to work out whatever obstacles have arisen in my personal and professional life since my last run.  I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I feel after running X number of miles (when X > 10) and I think it’s fun to tell people at lunch how many miles I ran before they woke up that morning.  I generally think any run less than an hour shouldn’t really qualify as a workout.

Yet I know I’m in the minority.   (It has also taken me nearly a decade of running to reach that point, for the record.  I’ve worked to get there because it was something I wanted to do.)

I’m not saying I’m right and I’m not saying I work harder or less hard than anyone during a workout.  I’m saying that for me, running gives me a lot. 

And it also takes a lot.  A lot of time.

Good thing that several shorter bursts of cardio throughout the day can have multiple benefits for your overall cardiovascular health!

Give yourself 10 minutes before you take a shower in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes before you read your mail at home, and you’ve squeezed in 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity that day.  You’ll get your metabolism kick started several times throughout your day, you’ll have the energy to make it all the way through your shorter session without too much fatigue, and you won’t have as many mental demons to battle for a shorter workout.

You know you can fit in those 10 minute segments.  Honestly; you know you can

I’m not saying that if you’ve signed up for a 5k all you need to do to prepare yourself for the run is to jog for 10 minutes three times a day.  I’m saying that if your goal is increased cardio health, try taking smaller bites out of the apple and choke down that exercise in a manageable way for yourself. 

My experiences with exercise and my insulin needs deal almost exclusively in exercise sessions longer than 30 minutes.  I know that for me, I need to be exercising at least 15-20 minutes before I sense any drop in my blood sugar (absent any other strange happenings in my day).

When I first started to exercise, I couldn’t jog a block.  If I did, I’d be low within 15 minutes.  So watch yourself and your effort levels and how they affect your blood sugar levels if you are just starting out.  You can easily benefit by having several shorter bursts of exercise spread throughout your day—if you do it regularly enough you may need to lower your overall basal rates due to your increased metabolism.    

Pretty cool.